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The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles Paperback – November 1, 2012
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What a seductive book this is, a tantalizing world of flavors waiting to be cooked, tasted, experienced. The recipes alone assure that this will be a well-used and no doubt well-loved book in my kitchen, but the scope of the book is much larger, including a personal and well-told story of Bengali cuisine. I love this book! --DEBORAH MADISON, author of Vegetable Literacy
The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles got me right from the title itself! The easy style, the well-written recipes, the personal memoirs were all interesting to read. --SMITA CHANDRA, author of Cuisines of India
There are 180 recipes in The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles. In each recipe, Rinku Bhattacharya tells you the story behind each one, giving a family history, a personal story, the origins of each unique recipe...all of which will compel you to try each of them. Rinku has written a wonderful and thoughtful cookbook; it is a journey through Bengali cuisine. --From the Toque and Apron Website
Peppered with wonderful family stories. history and Bengali culture, this book is entertaining, educational and delicious. There are 180 easy to follow recipes - both traditional and contemporary - and a thorough guide to spice blends and pastes. --Spabettie.com
The dishes are rich, complex, and take you on a journey far, far, away. (Unless you live in India, West Bengal, or Bangladesh.) Every recipe I have tried has been absolutely delicious, and the author tells wonderful stories about the origin of each dish, her family traditions and memories, and ingredient tidbits. I learned so much reading this book; it's a keeper! --Stephanie Weaver at Recipe Renovator.com
Rinku Bhattacharya has written what could be called the definitive book on Bengali Cooking for the American audience. And, even for those like me who are making a life outside of India and crave the comforting flavors of home. --Suvir Saran, Author of Indian Home Cooking and Masala Farm
"Contemporary yet traditional, refined yet candid, exuberant yet sublime, The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles is a warm and inviting book of family recipes that convey Rinku Bhattacharya's passion for the flavors and tastes of West Bengal." --AMMINI RAMACHANDRAN, author of Grains, Greens, and Grated Coconuts
"I am enchanted by the authentic Bengali recipes, sure-fire techniques, and family anecdotes. This is a winning cookbook." --BHARTI KIRCHNER, author of The Healthy Cuisine of India and Tulip Season
". . . offers a panoramic view of one of India's most delicious and least-known regional cuisines . . . sure to become indispensable to those of us in the vast Bengali diaspora who miss the flavors and aromas of home." --INDRANI SEN, freelance writer and adjunct professor at the City University of New York
About the Author
Rinku Bhattacharya was born in Kolkata, India and currently resides in Westchester, NY. She teaches cooking classes, maintains a popular food blog, Cooking in Westchester, and writes a weekly column "Spices and Season" for The Journal News website. Her upcoming cookbook SPICES & SEASONS: SIMPLE, SUSTAINABLE INDIAN FLAVORS will be published by Hippocrene Books in Spring 2014.
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Many cook books have a 'pre-story' where the author tells us a little bit about the background. Here, this is quite extensive and makes very interesting reading about the personal story of the author, and than a brief culinary journey into Bengal. And, of course, the Panch Phoron, the Five Spice Mix upon which the book is based, is explained.
Don't be frightened off by the unusual spices if you are not used to the ingredients. They are (at least in the UK) actually quite easy to find. The chapter also provides a useful reference point if you ever have to look back. Chapter Two introduces us to the Bengali meal - eating the Bengali way and Practical Every Day Menus. Again, this is something I have not often seen in cooking books. I certainly had the impression that the family meal is a very important part of Bengali life. I did try out a few recipes, and they turned out very well and tasty indeed.
The recipes are than arranged around the five spices of the Panch Phoron spice mix: Mustard Seeds, Nigella Seeds, Fenugreek, Fennel Seeds and Cumin Seeds. Many of the recipes have a personal background story which I loved.
I wished there would have been more pictures. There is a section in the middle with a few pictures which makes your mouth water. It is always nice to be able to have pictures with every recipe in a cooking book, but the large number of recipes in this book would make this very difficult indeed I guess.
One slight moan from me: I do not like it when the measurement of 'cup' is used (i.e. use 1 1/2 cups of ....) - I prefer to have my measurement in grams / pounds etc. I am a bit picky in the sense that I want exact measurements.
In summary, this books is most likely one of the most extensive introductions to Bengali cooking on the market. If you like spicy cooking and would like to try something else, this is a wonderful book to get you started. Also, if you like vegetarian cooking and wanting a change from you usual recipes - this book has the most extensive selection of lentil recipes I've seen.
The author tells her story, and relates each recipe to something in her life: family, friends, her travels. These snippets are interesting -- kind of like having a good friend explain her connection to the food she's preparing.
At the center is the blend of five spices: fennel seeds, cumin seeds, nigella seeds, black mustard seeds, and fenugreek seeds. I wasn't familiar with a couple of them, but found them available to order right here on Amazon, so no worries.
I had a blast trying some of these recipes, and found them easy to understand, and the results were consistently good. I tried My Grandmother's Festive Rice with Vegetables first, as I already had everything on hand without having to make a special trip to the supermarket. This combination of basmati rice, spices (including cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, tumeric, bay leaves, and star anise), diced fresh veggies (I used carrots, broccoli, parsnips, and corn cut fresh off the cob), tossed with a handful of cashews and raisins -- YUM! Definitely a winner, and could be modified according to what fresh veggies are available. The Fried Tilapia with Ginger and Green Chili Seasoning was wonderful -- I had some tilapia in the freezer, and the marinade of cumin, coriander, green chiles, cilantro, onion, ginger, and lime juice paired beautifully with this mild fish. A light batter dip, and into the fry pan with a little oil. I followed the author's recommendation, and served this with Fiery Mustard and Lemon Relish (which goes together very quickly). I like things spicy, so I was a happy camper.
I live in the Pacific NW, so the Salmon with Mustard Lemon Chive Butter was a natural choice to try. In this one, the mustard butter mixture goes on the fish in a sealed foil packet, and baked -- super easy to prepare, easy clean up. I served this one with Yellow Rice (flavored with tumeric). I also made Creamy Shrimp Curry, Rich Yogurt and Tomato Chicken, and Pork in Spicy Vinegar-Based Sauce (a wonderful pork vindaloo), all with excellent results.
If you need pictures to make sense of a recipe, you may be a bit disappointed -- there aren't many pictures in this one. And you'll need a sturdy cookbook holder to keep the book open. I'm planning to have mine converted to a spiral-bound at the local copy shop to make it easier to lay flat on my counter.
This one is staying in my kitchen for awhile-- there are so many other recipes I want to try before it assumes its place in my cookbook collection (I have my cookbooks in bookshelves spread out over 3 rooms ... ). This author has a gift for explaining recipes in a way that makes you want to try them, so they don't seem so intimidating. I was happy to have been offered the opportunity to preview and review this book.
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